Local Government New Zealand has today sent a letter to Associate Minister for the Environment Hon Scott Simpson calling for the Government to introduce a levy on single use plastic bags.
Signed by 65 mayors and chairs from around the country, the letter builds on a remit from the 2015 LGNZ Conference calling for a levy, and which was supported by 89 per cent of councils. The experience of those in local government is that plastic bags make a considerable impact on local environments and communities bear the environmental and financial burden.
International experience has shown the introduction of levies can be effective and in countries like Denmark, Ireland and China have led to a dramatic reduction in plastic bag use. A levy could play an important role in helping New Zealand’s efforts to reduce, reuse, recycle and recover waste.
The letter was launched for signing in June by Wellington Mayor and LGNZ National Council member Justin Lester, supported by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull. The letter, attached, calls on the government to impose a levy on single use plastic bags, or to give individual councils the ability to regulate themselves.
Mr Lester says there is clear public will for a levy on plastic bags.
“Not only are 90 per cent of New Zealand’s cities and towns are represented, but what we’ve seen over the past month is that the majority of New Zealanders support this levy, and most notably, retailers are on board too,” Mr Lester says.
LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says councils and communities take their environmental responsibilities seriously. A levy on plastic bags would act as a deterrent at the point of sale and go some way towards removing these harmful products from the waste stream.
“It’s clear to us that we need to do more to minimise the impact of plastic bags on our environment,” Mr Yule says. “Plastic bags cause harm in their creation, when they go to landfill and when they are littered.”
In January the Government announced proposals to ban products containing plastic microbeads from New Zealand because they could not be recycled and there was clear evidence of harm to waterways, fish and shellfish.
“This was a great step and was welcomed by many across the board,” Mr Yule says. “A levy on single use plastic bags is the logical next step. They are just as ubiquitous as the microbeads, which are largely being phased out by those who manufacture them anyway, and we need to take a real step forward to break the plastic bag habit so many of us have.
“There are some excellent soft plastic recycling efforts underway, and we acknowledge those. But let’s use the momentum we have here to make a real difference.”